Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bandaging My Wounds

In previous posts, I shared some thoughts about an issue I was having that I didn't know if I should investigate and push further....about someone in my life and how they purposefully hurt me. I have to admit that the more I thought about it, the more hurt I really felt. And I ended up saying something to that person. I don't really think I had much expectation going into it so I can't say for sure how I feel about the outcome. I think at this point, I am still too wounded to investigate my feelings very thoroughly. But somewhere along the line, I need to find some closure, something to allow my wounds the chance to heal.

There were a few other things that came up in our conversation that also hurt me deeply and I am still trying to sort everything out. I felt a little better after our chat for the sole reason that I finally got it out in the open. But at the same time, I set myself up to be hurt even more, which I think I was expecting; and in the end, I was left still feeling pretty grave.

I often wonder why people say that the ones who hurt you the most are those closest to you. Maybe in this scenario the word 'most' means 'most often,' which might be true considering the ones closest to you are the ones you are around on a regular basis, which naturally allows for ample opportunities to be hurt by them. But in my experience, in the past 4 years, I have been hurt more deeply by people I'm not all that close to and I just don't understand.

My sister brought to my attention that I have hurt people in my life and that I am not perfect. I know this. I realize that, like she said, I have not always handled things the right way or said things appropriately and that has led to others being hurt. But in general, I try very hard not to do or say things I know will hurt others and usually, if something I do or say ends up hurting someone it is completely unintentional. And I always apologize for my mistakes.


In this particular event, I was hurt intentionally and I am trying to figure out if this is something that I can always expect from certain people and if so, how do I shield myself from this and more importantly, how do I shield my children? I know I can't protect them from every single thing in the world but I feel as though it's my duty to at least do what I can, especially when it comes to people we allow in our lives. As for protecting myself, how far is too far? How much can I push this before it hurts others and causes even more trouble just because I pushed it? I don't want to be the cause of anyone's pain and maybe feeling that way is why I just don't understand how someone else can be so hurtful to me, especially in this situation.

If nothing else, I guess I can take from this what I try to take from pretty much anything else in my life, particularly when it comes to certain issues with certain people.... That is, lessons that will teach me how to be a better person and how to deepen my faith in God. I have to constantly remind myself that through the trials I face with others in my life, I am always going to find solace in my Father. And through everything, I try to see people how He sees them. As messed up, ignorant or miserable as they may seem, God often helps me to see them as broken children who just need His love to heal them, which helps me to understand them just that much more.

And maybe that means that as hurt and broken as I am through this, I just need His love to heal me too.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer

Our front flower bed is looking even more amazing as the days go by. Our hill garden is coming alive with more color each day and I grow anxious waiting for everything to be in full bloom. This is definitely one of the many signs of summer. A few evenings ago, we had a bonfire and Angelina discovered "lightening bugs" for the first time....another sign of summer - the warm evenings with children chasing after lightening bugs. I can remember the days when I was the one running around squealing after the luminescent insects in the dark heat of those summer nights.

I have started thinking about how things will start to change each year, as my children get older and start discovering things; as their unknowing innocence gives way to investigative curiosity. I just realized the other night how it has already crept in, my daughter getting older to that stage where she is really soaking up her surroundings and starting to question the world. Watching her as she chased after the lightening bugs, asking us questions about what they are and what they do really hit it home for me. This summer, she will notice more bugs, more flowers, nature in general; things she didn't really care about last year. And the questions will pour out like cake batter.

I feel as though it is my duty as my children's mom to take every opportunity to teach them something. The summer months are a good place to find such opportunities. The world seems a little bit slower this time of year and there are so many things that offer wonderful learning experiences for these observant and inquisitive children. From our front yard to our backyard and the world beyond, there are so many possibilities to teach our children about nature, about life, about God, about people...about anything their little minds desire. And maybe even to be taught some things myself!

I am hopeful for this year's summer months. I know it will be the first of many summers when my kids learn new things and have a lot of the same experiences that I did as a child. I remember discovering slugs and ants and one of my siblings educating me on how to kill them (salt and the deadly duo of a magnifying glass and the sun never seemed so criminal). I can remember sitting in the grass with my sisters and eating cherry popsicles, tying dandelions together into bracelets as the sticky sweetness of the frozen treats melted down our fingers. And I remember my mom turning on the hose to spray us as we ran by, a welcome refreshment from the heat of July. Rolling "potato bugs" into a ball and watching them uncurl themselves, climbing trees at the near-by park and coming home with sap all over our clothes and face and hands...This is the stuff that life is made of, the memories we play out in our minds long after we have made them and the learning experiences we soak up like the summer sun on a hot June day.

As nostalgia sets in from my own memories of summers past, I start to think about the different things we can do this summer to expand the horizons of my children's minds as well as allowing for their own sweet memories to be created. I'd like to think that even though my daughter is just shy of 4 and my son only 2, perhaps somewhere down the road, in their adult minds they will remember a little of the first summers of their life or even just learning and growing and experiencing them with the innocence and beauty that somehow only summer can illuminate.



Friday, June 20, 2008

Some Pictures of My Veggies





The first pic is an overall view of our very first vegetable garden
The second pic is one of our Zucchini plants
The third one is our first Green Pepper
The last one is just a few of our many Tomatoes

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Past Few Weeks




The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of events, emotions and disasters. But I would like to write about and celebrate just a few things.

On 5/27 and 5/29, two of my friends welcomed two new babies into the world. The one born on the 27th is my friend, Tiffany's third. The one born on the 29th is my friend Amy's fifth. How wonderful for them to finally be able to meet the beautiful little beings they have carried within them for the past 40 weeks. Congratulations to them both and their families!


On 6/7 was Joe's cousin's wedding and he took Angel and Aidan to the reception. The above pic is of the two of them enjoying themselves in a dance with the beautiful bride. Congratulations to Pam and Jose! I decided not to attend the reception for various reasons but I did go to my Uncle's annual picnic. It was hot and muggy but we survived. I drove the van with Bella, Mary and her husband Joe and daughter Rose. Mary and I enjoyed bouts of hysteria on the way there over a story I wrote when I was 12 about how mean I thought she was then. (Mind you, I was the one always beating everyone up, the one everyone feared when we were young!) It was a nice day, tiring, but nice.

This past Tuesday, I pulled a tick off my belly. Not sure how it got there or when but it was a small one, a deer tick, the kind that usually carry Lyme. My friend Lisa recently found out she and her son have Lyme disease from ticks they each were bitten by in their yard. I'm a little concerned but I'm praying I don't have it. It would mean many awful things, including probably having to stop breastfeeding the baby to go on antibiotics. Friday I had some nausea and then a migraine, which I don't usually have unless I'm pregnant, and then all weekend I felt pretty achy and sick. I'm not sure if symptoms for Lyme can show up within 3 days but if things persist, I will be going to the doctor. Lyme is a tricky disease, I hear. When the children have been out, we've been checking them when they come back in, to make sure they don't have any ticks on them. Aside from the physical issues I've dealt with over the weekend, the past few weeks have been a little emotional, as has been mentioned in previous posts. I am working to overcome these emotions, deal with the things that I know are causing some of them and I am trusting that God will carry me through everything, no matter the outcome.


My tomato plants are growing nicely, all 25 of them. (I actually just counted them the other day.) As are my zucchini, eggplant, peppers and cucumbers. I'm very excited for "harvest time," as it will mean an abundance of produce that we will greatly enjoy. I'm sure we'll have tons to share. Our strawberries don't taste any better than they did last year so I'm not sure we'll keep them past this year. We could use the space in the garden next year for some peas or maybe a different fruit. Every day I go out and see the beautiful plants growing happily alongside each other, pull some threatening weeds from the beds and thank God for the gift of these beautiful plants and for my husband who was so loving to plant such a wonderful garden for me. Our yard in general is starting to come into full bloom. The beautiful garden in the back is just starting to open itself up to the season. Oranges, purples and yellows are slowly dotting themselves across the hill, painting the landscape with their beautiful color. My husband planted an amazing bed of various flowers and plants in the front of the house. The lilies we borrowed from other parts of the yard last year are starting to open up and even the ones my sister bought for me last year, which I wasn't sure would make it, have scapes on them. They should probably bloom in the next week or so.

I've been trying to teach my children about the beauty that surrounds us each day, in nature, in people, everywhere we look. I particularly point out the things of nature which often go unnoticed in our busy days. Saturday night, Joe and I sat outside in the front and talked about the garden and I noticed the sun was retreating quickly, brilliant pinks and oranges spreading across the sky. I pointed it out to him, as I do with the children because he often doesn't notice these gifts either. God is such a beautiful artist! I remember many rides down to Maryland where I'd point out the sky or the surrounding landscape, horses and cows gathered in the fields. On one particular trip, Angelina said 'Mommy, look, the sky is following us!' Sure enough, as I looked out the window, I saw that big blue beautiful morning sky following us all the way down to Maryland! Angelina thought it was amazing. I have to admit, so did I!

Yesterday was Father's Day. We went to church and then later, we headed down to Maryland so Joe could play softball with his team from our old church. I dropped some cookies I made for my dad off at the house and visited for a bit and then I went over to the field to catch the second game. Aside from the fight at the game that seemed like it was about to turn violent, the evening was pretty nice. We sat at the field with my sister-in-law and her kids and our friend Cathy and her kids as well as others who there to watch the game. I bought a card for Joe that had a man on it holding a screaming baby with 2 other children (a boy and a girl) and a dog running around him. This was the perfect card because it was exactly our family...sans the dog of course. It said 'Happy Father's Day to my husband' and on the inside it said '...and fellow zoo keeper!' (Again,the perfect card.) I wrote him a note telling him how much of an amazing father he is. I love that despite his upbringing, he is capable of being the man he is for his children. I know they mean more to him than anything in this world and the love he not only has but
shows them is nothing short of a thing of beauty.

As I revisit the past few weeks' happenings, I am reminded one important thing: God is an amazing Father. The weeks' events, emotions and disasters have just cemented this for me even more. New babies, the beauty in nature, the fruitful garden my loving Joe planted, Joe's love for our children....and yes, even my worries, physical ailments and pain of all kinds are all truly blessings and are proof of God's love for all His children.



Friday, June 13, 2008

The Value of Answered Prayer

Yesterday was an emotionally hard day for me. I woke up feeling tired, my body ached, my heart ached and I just felt really down. I often have emotionally-hard days and sometimes, I chalk them up as a result of having some sort of spiritual battle. Sometimes, it's because the kids are being- well, kids- and I am having a difficult time being a normal mom. Other days, I really just have no clue. Yesterday, I believe I was battling with something I feel I am constantly battling with: defining my purpose in life, grappling with self-doubt and worry over something major I feel God has asked me to do for Him. I find it incredibly difficult, when it is this type of spiritual battle, to get away from these feelings. And maybe that's the nature of the battle, to foster feelings that root themselves deep within me so as to not allow me to let them go so easily.

My wonderful husband let me go out for a bit all by myself when he got home from work. I didn't have to worry about taking any of the kids and I could do whatever I needed or wanted to do. Getting behind the wheel of my husband's Honda with just my bank card, my license and my sunglasses and keys, I felt unlike I had all day. I felt like me. I felt like a person who had freedom and could fly high above any sad emotions I had experienced through out the day. I pulled out of the driveway and headed north, tuning the Serius radio to a less annoying station than the one my husband had it on.

I decided I wanted to go to the Christian bookstore that was about 10 minutes up Rt.15. I wanted to see if I could find something for my husband for Father's Day and I also needed to do a little bit of market research for a manuscript I have been working on. I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor in the young adults non-fiction section, paging through different books I thought would be relevant to my quest, skimming for content. I came upon a newly-published book geared toward teenage girls and something in me told me to get it. I obviously am not a teenager and I am too young to have a teenager for a child but I just felt like I needed to buy it. I wasn't sure it was even anywhere close to being like my manuscript (the purpose of market research) but I purchased it anyway. It was a whopping $11 total, which I consider expensive for a thin book I knew nothing about but what's $11 when you have such a strong God-directed feeling about something?

I left that bookstore and decided to head over to the Borders that was across the highway, to do a little more market research and maybe sit in the cafe for a bit. I wandered around in the store for awhile, not really finding anything that helped and then I made my way over to the cafe. I picked up a Mothering magazine, bought an oatmeal cranberry raisin cookie (which I had heated up...yummm!!) and a white chocolate mocha. I found a seat in the corner, a comfy leather chair by the window, and sat down to enjoy my purchases and thumb through the borrowed magazine.

With the warmth of the retreating sun shining through the window glass, I enjoyed my semi-quiet aloneness. I couldn't even really pay attention to the magazine I had picked up and just kind of sat, sort of eavesdropping on other people's conversations, making notes in a little notebook I brought in with me of thoughts that were running through my head, thinking about the book I bought at the other bookstore....relishing the fact that the only person I was in charge of was me.

When I got home about an hour and a half later, after getting lost on my way home because I took a wrong turn, I enjoyed the company of our new next-door neighbors and their son along with my husband and daughters (Aidan was already in bed) and just felt so much better than I had earlier in the day. Later, when we went to bed, my husband turned on the t.v. and faded off to sleep as I read my new book. Even though this book was geared toward teenage girls, there was a message in it that anyone searching for answers in life would really appreciate coming across, especially me. And in essence, it truly was an answer to several prayers.

The message stated that God plants dreams (for our lives) in our souls and that these dreams are very closely related to the gifts He made us with, the gifts we were born with, the gifts we need to develop and share in order to do His will. It's not on accident that we have dreams, especially dreams that won't seem to fade and only grow stronger in our life as we progress.

For me, finding this statement in the midst of many other very helpful parts of the book, was a beautiful ending to a somewhat-hard day and an almost-perfect evening. I realized that often when I pray for answers, God delivers them in the most unexpected way. This time, it was buying an $11 book by an unknown author in a Christian book store near my home.


Summary:
Random Christian book by an unknown author: $11
White chocolate Mocha and Oatmeal Raisin Cookie: $5.79
Time by myself (including getting lost) plus a beautiful answer to prayer: PRICELESS

Friday, June 6, 2008

Finding Me

I think that I am starting to lose myself. Or maybe I'm just now realizing that I already did. Has my life changed so much that I have changed and don't really have more parts to my identity than being a mommy and a wife? I have to wonder: did God design these areas of our lives in such a way that because of them we lose our former selves or is it because of them we are really finding ourselves?

I am having some brain-chaos these days. The last week or so has been exceptionally hard for me. I don't really feel overwhelmed by my life (i.e. children, chores, etc)...anymore than usual. I just have all these thoughts, mostly trying to figure out "things," particularly myself. My hands will never move fast enough for me to get these feelings out and often-times, I don't even have the means to be at the computer to type or have a piece of paper and a pen nearby to write. A lot of the time, the storm this jumble of thoughts creates finds other ways to dissipate. Like yelling at my children. Like crying uncontrollably. Like laughing hysterically at ridiculous stories I wrote when I was 9. Sometimes, I get the urge to cook a lot. Or redecorate. Or buy (and eat) a lot of sweets. If I was wealthy, my vice would be shopping; my choice purchases: items from the bakery and interior decorations. I can just see me now, walking in the door with bags impregnated with pies and cookies and anything chocolate from the bakery at the store instead of the food we need like eggs, milk and bread. And I can see my husband coming home from work, finding me in a sugar-induced coma on the couch (which I probably moved to other side of the room), surrounded by new linens and picture frames and some sort of potpourri dispenser.

(The tangent I just went on about food and decorating is also part of my brain's chaos finding its way out.)

I recently got back in touch with an old friend from middle school. At the end of her most recent email to me she said to make sure I make time for myself. I think that I laughed at that. And then I cried. The time I make for myself during the day usually comes with a price to pay: sleep. I would love to be napping when my children are, having just in the last week or so gotten the baby to nap at the same time the other kids do. But instead I stay up and I write or I eat (often my first meal of the day) or I get immersed in some cheesy old movie from 1994 compliments of Free Movies On Demand.

I don't know where I've gone. I know I've written about this before, wondering how to take all the different aspects of my identity and give them each some room. But I still haven't figured it out. Being a wife and mother are my two main focuses for my life right now. This I know. I am not complaining about that and I love both of these aspects of who I am. But somewhere, somehow, I'd like to find the other part of me that isn't either of those things. The person, the woman I know I am. The one who likes to read and write and run. The one who would like to take kick-boxing and learn to paint. The one who likes to go out and have a drink and some dinner with friends.....That one. I don't really feel like I know myself anymore past the aspect of being a mommy to my children who only know me as that and a wife to my husband who doesn't seem to know too much about me at all.

Since I became a mother and a wife I often feel like it's too hard to figure out how much has changed me, who I am beyond these titles. I do have to admit that even if I was just being a normal healthy person, living my life in a normal healthy way before I had babies or got married, I still would've been completely changed by these happenings. It is sort of forced in a way, though in the sea of life there are many choices a person makes about what to change, what to give up and what to allow especially when they become someone's spouse or mother. But in doing these things, and allowing for the current of these two waves to take me wherever they want to go, I have become a different person in general. I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I could be. I am a lot happier. A lot more fulfilled. I am a lot more funny than I thought I was. I am more patient and quiet and calm. I am learning more things about myself out here on these waters than I would have just standing on the shore.

So maybe, just maybe, it's not that I have lost myself but through these happenings in my life, have truly found myself instead.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Raising Angel



My oldest is only 3 1/2. I have to tell myself this over and over when she's yelling at me, when she throws her attitude my way and yes even when, I'm ashamed to say, she cusses. The cussing thing I blame on her father although I can admit that I've thrown a cuss word around once in awhile when I'm really angry! But he cusses over the smallest annoyances so his is more frequent and a lot more noticeable! The first time she said a not-so-nice word, it was sort of cute. We laughed. And then, of course, she liked that we laughed so she did it again. Then, as she got a little older, she realized that cuss words were words we seemed to use to express being upset or annoyed at something. So, when we sent her to her room, the cuss words would fly. It's no longer cute. We are working on this and it's gotten a lot better with all of us.

But aside from the cussing and the attitude, I really do have to remember that she is only 3 1/2. I forget sometimes, I'm guessing because she's my oldest, that she isn't as independent as I think she is. I almost get annoyed at this in the moments when I have forgotten she's still really just a baby. She's very helpful with her little brother and sister and she does most basic things herself like getting juice cups out for me to fill, getting herself dressed (although we do have to help her sometimes), feeding herself, going to the potty by herself, etc. But in the middle of the night, when she's having one of her night terrors or when she just wants to snuggle in our bed, I am instantly aware that she is not grown up after all.

I look at her and each day she gets taller, learns more words, learns more mannerisms and tones of voice. She says the craziest things some days, things you wouldn't think would come from a 3 1/2 year old. I often expect more from her, which I know I shouldn't. Sometimes I expect her to have adult understanding of the way things work in life or of how emotional I can be and why. But she does not.

Long ago she lost her baby face. It was replaced with a child's face but she seems even older than a child somehow. When I look in her eyes, I see innocence but I also see wisdom. I am unsure as to how to handle her some days, especially when she acts like a little baby. I have to remind myself constantly that she is still so young and that she needs me in so many ways, despite that wisdom I perceive. Some days I am crushed when all I want is to gather her in my arms and hold her and I am met with annoyance and a resistant "Mom, I'm doing something..." Other days I am annoyed when she is the one asking me to hold her. Some days she sucks her thumb. Others she'd rather help me with chores and taking care of the baby.

My daughter is caught in a stage where she is trying to figure out where her place in the family is, I think. She feels like she's lost her status and in some ways, she has. She is no longer the baby or the only child. Two years ago, my son was born taking both of those titles from her. Now she is contending with another baby, vying for my attention with two other needy children. I feel that somehow she senses that most days she will lose this race, especially when the baby is exceptionally fussy or her brother is throwing fits. I'm afraid for her, I do not want her to grow up feeling like there was never enough left for her. I try to spend time with her by herself. Her daddy usually takes just her if he's going somewhere and wants to take a kid.

I don't know what else to do for her except to give her lots of hugs and look into her beautiful blue eyes, tell her how much I love her and hope that somewhere in the depths of her wisdom she understands. After all, behind that child's face lies the face of a baby and even in her wise soul there beats the heart of an innocent being.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Some Old Thoughts

I came across the following thoughts in an old notebook while sifting through one of my many boxes of stuff I've written..

7/3/06

I fathom a life- my life- without babies, without the responsibility of taking care of anyone else. Of having no important decisions to make that involve an analysis of whether or not the decision would be good for [my] children as well.

I cannot see it.

I cannot see a life where my 2 year old isn't singing me nonsense songs or waking in the night crying for me or even screaming in my face because she didn't get her way. And I cannot grasp a hold of the idea of one without my 2 month old falling asleep while nursing, staring up at me with a half smile of delight as I try to rock him to sleep....waking me in the night to remind me to feed him...crying because he has a bout of painful gas.

This is my life. Changing diapers. Holding tiny hands. Rocking sleepy children. Countless kisses and hugs. Kissing boo-boos. Nursing a hungry baby. Silly songs. Long nights.

I watch my daughter grow up too fast. My son is right behind her. I cannot even think of my life without them, yet I feel like they're already slipping away from me. When the time comes for us to let them go, do we as mothers know how to do it?

Is it painful and if so, for how long?


Monday, June 2, 2008

My Job

My job is housewife. I do not get paid unless you count infinite kisses and hugs and cute smiling faces, which I do! But it is a job nonetheless. My husband and I have a battle pretty often about whose job is the hardest and who does more work, etc. It's a ridiculous, fight, really.. I think I should always win! No, seriously, it's ridiculous because both of our jobs are hard in different ways, each consisting of tasks that can be quite difficult and some that are also very easy. I do often think that I have the harder job because of the emotion that is needed for raising three of God's children. On top of that, I am also in charge of taking care of our home. Neither aspects of my job ever seem very easy. For me, raising my children requires a lot of time, a lot of patience, a lot of commitment, a lot of energy, a lot of emotion and a lot of prayer. And most of the time, it requires all of these things at the same time. Taking care of my home also requires a lot of energy and time and often a lot of prayer even just to get through the smallest thing such as sweeping the hardwood floors without screaming at my kids to stop running through my 'piles,' especially when they do so with their blankets or toys dragging behind them.

My job description includes the general things any person would do to keep their house even the slightest bit tidy plus: changing poopy diapers, washing poopy diapers, cleaning dirty faces and hands, making breakfast, lunch and dinner plus snacks, breastfeeding the baby, giving baths, wiping snotty faces, singing silly songs, reading stories, teaching my 3 1/2 year old her ABC's, teaching all of them about love and God and life in general, battling screaming children, answering the same questions 563 times and reaching in dark corners or underneath furniture for the beloved lost doll or lego...just to name a few. There are many more duties that my job entails but I think you probably can guess where my time goes during the day. I didn't even mention the best parts of my job which are holding my sleeping baby, cuddling with my son and rubbing noses with my oldest (her favorite "snuggling" technique these days) and also holding them when they cry, holding them when they laugh, holding them when they're barfing their brains out (okay, I confess...this last one is not my favorite).

The hardest thing about my job, I think, is the general aspect of giving them my devotion which includes my unconditional love and undivided attention...this second one is often very hard. The emotion that is required to raise children even half as well as God would like me to is immeasurable. Some days it's very taxing and it's all I can do to fall in bed at the end of the day, completely exhausted, just barely able to utter an almost inaudible 'goodnight' to my husband.

The easiest thing about my job is doing all these things out of love, expecting nothing in return. But even though I don't expect anything, I get paid in priceless returns. My 2 year old says 'thank you' even more than my 3 1/2 year old does. The joy I get from my 3 1/2 year old when her eyes light up and she jumps on me with a big bear hug just because I helped her get dressed is almost overwhelming. And I can't even articulate how my heart feels when my 4 month old unlatches and looks at me with her big brown smiling eyes, milk dribbling from her mouth, content and full from my nursing her.

This is my job. It is not to go out into the world to work for more money when we can live on what my husband makes. It is not to sit at home and do nothing all day although some days I am more lax with my duties than others. Some people think I'm being lazy by staying home instead of working in the world but I think they just don't get how unlazy you have to be to do such a job. Most of the comments I hear that allude to such nonsense come from people who didn't or don't stay home with their kids and don't know what it's like. And I'm not saying these people are terrible for not doing so, I'm just saying they don't know what they're talking about and have no room to judge.

Besides, laziness is just not in my job description!